The Role of Technology and Innovation in Shaping Future Legal Leadership

November 8th, 2023

The Role of Technology and Innovation in Shaping Future Legal Leadership

The Role of Technology and Innovation in Shaping Future Legal Leadership

POSTED IN Zen & the Art of Legal Networking

One of the things I like to do is go through old posts of mine to see if there may be some utility in updating them for the current market. What’s the saying? Everything old is new again. And that always seems to be the case – even with content!

But today, I felt like talking about something brand new. So I asked my handy assistant, ChatGPT (the only assistant I can afford at the moment), what I should talk about for leadership in the legal industry. Its reply was this:

This topic would allow you to explore how technological advancements, such as AI, data analytics, and digital platforms, are influencing the legal profession and redefining what it takes to be an effective leader in the legal industry. You could discuss how legal leaders are adapting to these changes, the skills and qualities they need to possess, and the strategies they are implementing to stay ahead in an increasingly tech-driven world.

Additionally, you can delve into the ethical considerations and challenges that arise when integrating technology into the legal profession, as well as the importance of maintaining a balance between traditional legal expertise and technological proficiency in leadership roles. This topic would provide valuable insights into the evolving landscape of leadership within the legal industry.

We know that AI is literal, so this answer reflects that, but it does bring up some good ideas on discussing this topic. I was chatting about it earlier today with our bookkeeper when he jokingly told me that he wasn’t worried about losing his job to AI anytime soon. I said I wasn’t either, and he pointed out that an AI had misclassified a line item labeled “Depot Diner” as a railroad item because it said “Depot” on it. AI lacks nuance.

Computers are made up of zeros and ones and so they think in black and white. People live in the grey (something I often hate, by the way), and so we will often ask a computer something like “what topic should I discuss for the legal industry today” and it will spit out “talk about technology in the legal industry” because it would have said “talk about [popular] topic in the [your selected] industry.”

It’s not wrong, but it’s lacking in nuance.

That being said, these are GREAT questions in an industry that tends to lag behind the “next big thing.” I’m incredibly curious about what the next ten years are going to look like, because we already saw social media change the playing field for marketing for small and mid-sized firms, so what will AI, data analytics and digital platforms do for the practice of law? My heart really wishes I could leave data analytics out of that list because firms are already using them spectacularly well, but even though I know a handful of brilliant people who have been talking about analytics for well over a decade, the industry as a whole just hasn’t caught up to them.

Where are we going?

Okay, so let’s briefly talk about where we’re going. I’m not here to make predictions, because that’s not something that I do. Eight years ago, we talked about SMART Law, and what the law firm of the future would look like, and we focused on the qualities that future lawyers would need to have in order to be successful. Those kinds of predictions I’m happy to make, because I feel confident that certain kinds of people are going to be more adaptable to change than others. And make no mistake: the one constant that we have in our lives IS change, whether we like it or not.

Before we talk about what those characteristics are, I’ll tell you a story that a recent speaker shared with us during a session on resistance to technological change at one of our conferences. Karolina Šilingienė, the co-founder of Crespect, an all-in-one practice management system, said that when you lose ten euros, it feels much worse to you than the elation you feel in finding ten euros. And this sums up the issue with change – you are much more afraid of what you are going to lose by making a change than you are excited about what you may gain. (This certainly lit a light bulb over a number of heads in the room).

Those leaders/lawyers who will be successful in future law firms will:

Be adaptable/flexible

Be curious

Always be learning

Have a high EQ (Emotional Intelligence)




Have good systems/processes in place

Speak technology

It may surprise you to learn that there are leaders and lawyers who exist right now who embody all of these characteristics. They’re not common in the field, but they do exist. And we’re going to see them more and more in those who succeed. Traditional anything isn’t going to last – not only has the pandemic taught us that, but the technology boom has. The way that people work and live has changed tremendously, and so we must change along with it. The most adaptable among us will be the most successful.

But it’s….challenging

Changing a whole profession is like turning around an ocean liner. Things don’t happen overnight. And of COURSE, when you’re speaking about the legal profession, you need to raise the issue of ethics. People love to joke about lawyers scamming them, but in truth, we have one of the most honest professions anywhere, because who else is required to have an ethical check-in every single year?

This is why I’m not worried that the legal profession is disappearing overnight thanks to AI. But common sense has to prevail. Everyone knows the case that must not be named when a lawyer used AI to draft a brief with imaginary citations. Technology is a fantastic TOOL when it works – but it is just a tool. It does not replace the actual work that we are all supposed to be doing. It can only be used to cut the corners that we are supposed to be cutting – as in, if you need help drafting an email without confidential information in it or perhaps you are looking to do more business development and you’d like some assistance in quickly drafting your social media posts (quick note, google is not picking up articles written by AI, so you may want to make sure that you’re drafting your own content if you want to be searchable online for maximum exposure). There are ways to make use of technology and ways not to make use of it – keep an eye out for the experts (the real experts) who are out there educating on how you can truly use these tools to make better use of your time.

The tools are new – so the experts are new too. But it doesn’t mean there aren’t good ones out there. Just be judicious in how you find them, and make use of the professionals at your firms to point you in the right direction when you’re looking, if they don’t already have the expertise themselves.

What tools are you already using? What are you most excited about? What do YOU predict for the future?

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